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CONTACT CENTRES: Can Moving Contact Centres from You Business to Home Work?


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Could you move your contact centre out of the business environment and into the homes of agents? In theory it could work and there are many benefits, but like any other shift from the norm, it takes some courage, perseverance and a willingness to refine the model to make it work. Spescom DataFusion offer some advice and suggest an approach to help test the waters.

Says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion, a Jasco company: “Moving a contact centre, or part thereof, to the homes of agents is not a challenge technologically – calls can be diverted to an agent in a remote destination as easily as to an agent seated in a call centre, and all the functionality of the call centre applications and telephony platforms, including access to relevant data, can be maintained. What is harder is dealing with a new style of management, and ensuring agents are suited to working in these environments.”

Fick suggests looking at a number of potential scenarios, depending on the infrastructure and business needs of the organisation. “It is important to have the right equipment in place to ensure agents can be supported and managed adequately,” he notes. “For example, many organisations make use of a branch infrastructure with contact centre agents doing different or multiple tasks dispersed geographically in these branches. Standardising equipment and call centre functionality is a critical first step to enable a performance benchmark to be reliably set. Once this is in place, a ‘work from home’ pilot can be run.”

When sufficient bandwidth with quality of service measures is available, the technology infrastructure entails an IP hard or softphone and a thin or thick client personal computer. In reality, most SA homes do not have these services. The technology Spescom DataFusion therefore recommends employs softphone agent software to log into the company PBX, which then controls the telephony and contact centre services at the remote location. When a call is placed to an agent’s extension or an Automatic Call Distribution
(ACD) call is routed to them, the central communication manager calls the agent at a pre-defined phone number, be that a home phone or a cell phone.
Call recording is usually centralised.

Says Fick: “To be successful, basic in- and outbound contact centre functionality should be accessible to the agent. Inbound functionality includes ACD; skills based routing and logging into skills groups. Outbound functionality includes preview dialling, progressive dialling, predictive dialling using campaign data to automatically dial customers.”

Other functionality that will assist to improve performance of agents and managers is:

• recording of all customer interactions of contact centre agents for quality purposes, and play back recordings from the main sites, remote sites and homes; • centralisation of statistical reporting, and access to this information from main sites, remote sites and homes; and • the centralisation of administrative tasks relating to contact centre infrastructure (e.g., adding, changing or deleting skills, call flows, dialler services) for ease of access.

What kind of return on investment (ROI) can be expected? That depends on the reason the business undertakes virtualisation of the contact centre. Says
Fick: “For one client currently investigating this option, contact centre virtualisation has resulted in a close look at the process and technological checks and balances currently in place. For example, call recording is vital for quality assurance, to ensure agents meet performance criteria, and to meet various regulations in terms of conducting financial transactions. For this organisation, time to ROI on the project – which included equipping staff with the necessary technology to ensure full contact centre capabilities, monitoring and management -- was less than six months.”

The potential benefits of moving the contact centre into the home include:

• saving money on facility leasing, equipping and maintenance; • cutting travel time and giving the business a smaller carbon footprint; • increasing the pool of potential staff a business can select from given there will be no geographic limitations on staff location; • greater quality of life and life balance for staff as there is greater flexibility in terms of agents’
work hours; and • increased scalability for the contact centre as more agents can be brought ‘online’ quickly if demand spikes.

Concludes Fick: “For many organisations it may make sense to offer a ‘work from home’ policy to certain groups of workers, perhaps those whose tasks require they work independently or those that would clearly be more efficient or effective in a remote environment. For others, implementing just some of the principles of call centre virtualisation will allow them to reap significant early benefits. Whatever your setup, it’s worth looking at possible scenarios now, and perhaps gearing processes and operations to reap future benefits.”

About Spescom DataFusion
Spescom DataFusion is a Jasco group company. The core focus is to deliver integrated business communication solutions that enhance the way businesses communicate with their customers, leveraging voice, video and data technologies through its various ICT and Telecommunications business units.
The deep technical expertise and considerable industry know-how housed in these business units combine to deliver world-class solutions including integrated contact centre platforms and applications, a range of voice application technologies, as well as telecommunications, connectivity and broadcast solutions. At Jasco we are positioned to leverage current and future technology trends and developments to meet the dynamically shifting requirements of our customers and ensure their continued competitiveness.

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